Chattanooga Shootings for The New York Times


I couldn’t believe it. Not again. Not another rampage shooting where more innocent people lost their lives. The weight of it was slowly starting to sink in as I was making the drive a couple hours north to Chattanooga to cover this terrible story for The New York Times. The nation was still grieving those lost 28 days earlier, in another senseless killing, at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. But this was the reality — a 24-year-old Chattanooga man drove to two different military facilities on July 16, killing four Marines and a Sailor. The suspect, Mohammod Abdulazeez, was killed by police in the gun battle. It still doesn’t make sense — it never will.


In the top photo, Adisa Razic, from the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, closes her eyes prayer during a vigil at Olivet Baptist Church in downtown Chattanooga. Above, FBI officials work the scene of the one of the shootings, a military recruiting center off Lee Highway, and local police barricade the road the leads to where Abdulazeez lived with his family.

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Members of Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, where Abdulazeez and his family attended, leave after a prayer meeting on Friday. Because of the tragedy, the mosque cancelled all activities related to Eid al-Fitr, which were set to begin on Friday and last through the weekend.


Above, a local business changes their sign to show their support for the tragedy, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam prepares for television interviews at one of the memorial sites.


Above, Chet Blalock, a martial arts instructor in nearby Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., trained Abdulazeez. Blalock said Abdulazeez was extreme in his training, sometimes allowing himself to be choked to the point of unconsciousness. “It’s a bit on the extreme side, even for mixed martial arts,”he said.

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At the East Ridge Flea Market, a man walks past the booth of where Youssuf Abdulazeez, Mohammod’s father, normally sold perfumes and colognes on the weekends.

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And there was plenty of prayer and patriotism. It seemed that was what was holding this city together. In one of the church services I attended, candles were lit for all of the victims during an hour-long service dedicated to their remembrance. And at the end, the pastor lit a candle for the shooter. Because he was a victim, too, the pastor said. “Mohammod Abdulazeez was a victim of hate,” said the Rev. Ken Sauer at East Ridge United Methodist Church. Love and and forgiveness was the answer, the pastor said, not more hate.

Below are links to the stories where my work appeared:

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